The Amish choose, in a sense, to wear a uniform every day. No closets stuffed with frilly clothes and high heels. Just the opposite; humility and modesty are essential. They do their best to avoid appearing pretentious or in competition with others.

Within the many Amish communities across the nation, there are subtle differences in dress. But plain attire gives the wearer a sense of belonging and connection to his or her brothers and sisters in faith. There is an immediate bond even if the other person is a stranger.

There are several opinions why the Old Order Amish dress as they do, but most agree on the following: As devout Christians, Amish believe they should be separate from the surrounding world. (And be not conformed to this world. Romans 12:2) Conformity to society’s popular fashions signifies conformity with the world’s ungodly system. Not only are trendy clothes seen as ungodly, they are also an economical drain, wasteful and soon to be obsolete. Amish believe jewelry and wristwatches are contrary to biblical teaching.

Amish women cover their heads and do not cut their hair. They part it down the center, then tuck strands out of sight under a prayer cap (head covering they call a Kapp) or a scarf, if out in the field. (But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 1 Corinthians 11:5) The Bible admonishes us to pray without ceasing, thus women cover their heads much of the day. The styles of prayer caps vary between congregations and different parts of the country. I love the heart shaped caps of Lancaster County, as seen on my book covers.

Amish Farmer in Lancaster County, PA

Men’s attire also varies. The width and brim and height and shape of hats differ. For warm weather, straw hats are preferred for daily wear. Most, but not all, are purchased in dry goods stores. Handsome black felt hats are worn in cooler weather. There is also a wide variation in suspenders among Amish men. Something I believe all Old Order Amish men have in common: None wear zippered jeans or corduroy slacks. If I’m wrong, please let me know. Buttoning their black trousers is functional and practical. Instead of buttons and zippers, Amish women use long straight pins to close their aprons, and hooks and eyes elsewhere.

Why no close-up photos of Amish to illustrate their attire? You might know it is against their Ordnung (rules they must obey) to have their faces photographed. Out of respect, I’ve photographed the Amish from afar. Although several have smiled and waved, I usually wait for them to turn away before pressing my camera’s button or erase their faces using my computer’s software. Some Amish owned shops do not allow cameras inside, because tourists take the Amish staff’s photos. If you see an Amish person on TV or in a movie, most likely they are not really Amish. Especially if they’re wearing a wedding band.

Coming June 1, 2014

I was fretting over not having illustrations of Amish women’s attire, then realized my newest novel, Forever Amish, releasing June 1, depicts a young woman clad in Lancaster County attire, as do my other two novels. The photographer provided the appropriate Amish clothing.

We size people up by their apparel and often guess their occupation, where they’re from, and whether or not they are trustworthy. If you needed directions, would you choose to ask a guy wearing a baseball cap and a T-shirt, a man wearing a pin-striped three-piece suit and a splashy tie, or an Amish man with a full beard?

I’ve gleaned much of my information from noted authority and author Donald B. Kraybill and Stephen Scott who is no longer living, and as well as spending time with Amish in Pennsylvania.

What do you think about the way Amish dress? Anything you find appealing? What about today’s younger population’s clothing could be less worldly?

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Congratulations to Dawn C., last week’s winner of a copy of either Leaving Lancaster or Pennsylvania Patchwork! A big thank you to everyone who left a comment! I enjoyed reading them immensely!